Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #083: The Land of the Plant People

Monday, November 9, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #083: The Land of the Plant People

Turok: Son of Stone #45

The Lost Valley has crummy courtroom dramas.

Turok and Andar pay witness to a manhunt: one man fleeing the wrath of a veritable mob! Just when it looks like he’s cornered himself against an impenetrable maze of thorns, he applies a delicate touch that lets them grant him passage! The thorns close over again before the mob can follow, even whipping at them when they get close…

… but they still manage to brain the man with a thrown club. Our heroes climb down from their steep cliff to check on him, but Andar finds himself at the mercy of another form of malevolent plant — the man-eating kind! The man opens the plant before Andar suffocates, revealing that only his tribe know the secret of taming these giant plants… before drawing his last breath.

Welp, there goes their tour guide. And they’re gonna need one: this land’s full of weird and wonderful plantlife, including ones that emit sleeping gas! Turok and Andar awake to find themselves at the centre of a tribe’s murder trial — who killed the chief? Stanad believes Rodal, the next-in-line to become chief, ordered the two outsiders to do the deed; Rodal, meanwhile, thinks Stanad fancies the position for himself, and is trying to incriminate him. Our heroes can barely get a word in edgewise; this isn’t a court of justice so much as it is a shouting contest.

Court is adjourned when a big stinkin’ stegosaurus interrupts the proceedings, but they’re in no danger; the plant people have clanging bell flowers as their early warning system, and unseen beds of deadly thorns. T & A use the distraction to clonk their captors and leg it, but are captured within seconds. There’s no way out without the secret of the plants, and Rodal believes their only hope to prove their collective innocence is to face… the plant maze!

Why, the plant maze’s flora can only be pacified by the touch of an innocent man, or the tribe’s medicine man! It’s the most dangerous land within the tribe’s grounds, with flowers and vines capable of ending life in ways you never imagined… but what better way to prove they didn’t do it?

It’s a pity Rodal fuckin’ bites it instantly. That won’t look good on the stand.

The plants don’t just strangle and swallow things too; they shoot burning liquid and stinging barbs, triggered even by their shadows! The thought of escape seems pretty darn hopeless against traps like that… but by pulling a harmless tree into the grasp of the people-eater, the whole system falls apart, with the movement and commotion triggering all the traps at once. Time to book it!

They’re out of the deadly maze but still in the plant people’s domain, and there’s still no hope of exiting, not without their magic touch. They’re in no position to learn their secrets… but they can learn the plants’ secrets — namely, their rapid growth in proximity to light and fire!

The pair bargain for their release, otherwise they’ll sic the plants against them; you can clearly see which option the plant folk went for. After a thorough manhandling by their own defence systems, the tribe finally cry uncle and let them go, and our heroes are free to– what do you mean those manhunters are still lurking outside?!

Try burning grass on for size, you clowns. Get outta here. This isn’t your story.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen killer plants, and it won’t be the last. Monstrous flora is one of those recurring tropes of primeval adventures and jungle stories, and every Turok story treats them differently; Valley of the Vines consisted only of strangling tangles, while this one focuses heavily on their alien defence mechanisms, done justice by Alberto Giolitti’s art as always. It’s easy to look down on plants for being saps (har har); getting done in by nature’s set dressing feels like a chump way to go, but the many ways the natural world can wreck your shit without claws, fangs, or rippling muscles is worthy of respect in my book.

Also, this is a story that did not go the way I expected. Rodal freakin’ dies! I was half-expecting him to return, having faked his death to slink into the shadows and make T & A prove their innocence without his help, but that plot thread quickly sputters out. Given the three solid pages of tribal justice I was expecting Turok and Andar to be more involved in their affairs, but when their maze-mate bites the big one there’s no way it’ll end in their favour.
The pair make no discussion of the chief’s death, their only concern is how this effects them. Fair play; Turok’s made repeated points of not getting involved, so why change now? Just because the tribe’s got a half-baked legal system (does the plant maze serve as trial or penitentiary…?) doesn’t mean they’re not backstabbing bozos.

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